Peter Angelos, Lord Paramount of Baltimore, Most Regal Imperator of Maryland and now Prime Potentate of the National Capital Area, long ago decreed that there shall be no baseball in the Washington region save His Very Own. Now, He Who Is Anointed with Asbestos has let it be known that there shall be slots in Prince George's County, the newest addition to his realm.
Yea, even though the owner of the Baltimore Orioles is not permitted under Major League Baseball's rules to hold an interest in a gambling business, his royal wife and the two crown princes of the Angelos family this month bought Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's. Peter Angelos deigns to serve merely as counsel to his wife and kids.
Way to honor the spirit of the rule, your highness!
Baseball does not "allow any relationships with any kind of gambling enterprise," the sport's chief spokesman explained not long ago. Except when baseball chooses simply to look the other way.
Just a couple of years ago, baseball commissioner Bud Selig told the San Diego Padres that they could not sell the naming rights to their new stadium to the Sycuan Indian tribe because the tribe operates a casino. Some years before that, baseball four times barred shopping center magnate Edward DeBartolo from buying a team because he owned racetracks.
How then is it okay for Angelos, who actually owns and runs a team, to be the effective owner of a harness racing track?
And does it matter to baseball that the family's bargain-basement purchase of Rosecroft has no purpose other than for Angelos to throw his considerable political weight behind Gov. Bobby Haircut's eternal campaign for slots?
The family has hired legendary Annapolis lobbyist Gerry Evans on the Rosecroft deal, aiming to accomplish what Bob Ehrlich and Senate President Mike Miller have failed to achieve through two long years of staking the state's future on slot machines.
Evans, who was sent to prison for defrauding his clients and was singled out by a federal judge as prime evidence of the state capital's "culture of corruption," is a longtime ally and former staffer of Miller's.
Can Angelos make slots happen when the combined forces of major national gambling companies, the governor, the Senate president and the state's horse industries have not?
His Highness doesn't fool around. He's one of the nation's leading experts in spreading his cash around to malleable politicians. Mother Jones magazine ranks Angelos 21st in the nation in giving to political campaigns. Since 2000, Angelos and his law firm have donated $2.7 million to federal campaigns alone; he's also the single largest donor to Maryland's Democratic state committee, and he's been sharing his dollars with the state's Republican governor, too.
(Watch for Angelos to develop a sudden interest in Prince George's politics, too. After all, County Executive Jack Johnson has already been on at least three sides of the issue. If you're scoring at home, mark him as opposed to slots -- for the moment. Always use pencil in such matters.)
If Angelos succeeds in saddling Prince George's with slots -- stomping all over the county's ambitions to join other Washington suburbs in creating a family-friendly, affluent atmosphere -- he'll make massive mountains of moola.
If his effort flops, he's out mere pocket change. His family picked up Rosecroft, which is doing so poorly that it was threatening to shut down, for just $13 million, and Angelos had to promise only to keep the Oxon Hill track alive for a decade.
Neither Angelos nor a spokesman for Major League Baseball returned calls seeking comment on the latest turn of events. Which is too bad, because I have an idea for His Highness: If lightning strikes twice and the slots thing doesn't work out and Washington gets the Expos, there's still no need to abdicate the throne.
Simply buy the D.C. baseball team and move it to the Rosecroft Raceway site. That way, you can pocket the indemnification money that baseball would likely pay the Orioles if Washington got a team, make millions in both Baltimore and Washington, and drive two franchises into the ground.
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